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Syracuse Crunch salvage win to keep division lead

The Lightning's AHL affiliate has held the advantage for 14 straight weeks

by Press Release / Syracuse Crunch

Syracuse salvaged a victory Sunday to close Week 19 1-2-0-0. The 5-3 win at St. John's secured Syracuse the division lead for the 14th consecutive week. With 24 regular season games left, the Crunch are 26-17-4-5 with the sixth best points percentage in the conference (.587).

The Crunch play two more road games-Wednesday at Toronto and Friday at Rochester-before coming home Saturday, ending a stretch of 12 road games out of 14 overall. Syracuse is 6-5-1 in the last 12 games.

Syracuse has won six straight when scoring first. The team is winless in the last 13 games it has allowed the first goal (0-8-5). For the season, Syracuse is 20-3-1-2 when scoring first (.827), and 6-14-3-3 when not (.346). When allowing the first goal in road games, Syracuse is 2-10-2-1 (.233) and winless in the last 11. 

Top Performers

Adam Erne totaled three points in Week 19, including a two-goal effort Sunday in St. John's. Both scores were power-play goals, the second of which was the game-winner. Four of his six multi-point games for the season are multi-goal performances.

Erne has five goals and seven points in five games since returning from injury including two game-winning strikes. For the season, Erne has 13 goals, tied for third on the Crunch, and 25 points, sixth on the team. Erne is tied with Matt Taormina for the team lead in first goals (4).

Matt Taormina had a goal and three points in two games at St. John's to recapture the Crunch scoring lead at 43 points, one better than Cory Conacher who was recalled by Tampa Bay prior to Saturday's game. Taormina is tied with Lehigh Valley's T.J. Brennan for most points by a defenseman in the league, and ninth overall.

Taormina scored a power-play goal Saturday, his 13th marker of the season, third most on the Crunch. He leads Syracuse at seven power-play goals. Taormina added a pair of power-play assists in Sunday's win, his team-leading 11th multi-point game. He has 23 power-play points, a Crunch best and most by an AHL defenseman. 

Taormina has equaled his goal total (13) and surpassed his point total (41) from last season. He's seven points shy of his career best (50) from 2009-10 with Lowell. One more goal would be a new career high.

Other notable performers from Week 19 include Joel Vermin (two assists Sunday in St. John's), Adam Comrie (a goal Wednesday and a power-play assist Sunday) and Adam Wilcox (27 saves in Sunday's victory). Mike Halmo, after missing Saturday's game with injury, recorded a key insurance goal in Sunday's 5-3 win. Halmo's 14 goals are second on the Crunch.

Transactions

Syracuse signed two players to professional tryout contracts Tuesday, 6-foot-4 left wing Kevin Morris, 24, and 5-foot-11 center Cory Ward, 23. Both rookies had spent all of this season with the Manchester Monarchs, leaders of the ECHL's North Division.  

Morris, a native of Massena, New York, played the last four seasons at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He set a career high in goals (8) and points (16) as a senior and was an Academic All-Conference selection. He has 25 points (12g, 13a) in 48 ECHL games this year. Kevin's father Mark Morris is head coach at St. Lawrence University and coached AHL-Manchester from 2006 to 2014.

Ward, from Las Vegas, spent four seasons at Bemidji State University in Bemidji, Minnesota. He played 151 games for the Beavers totaling 80 points (45g, 35a). He played eight games for St. John's last year and made his pro debut in Syracuse March 20. He's played 50 of 52 games for Manchester this year, with 29 points (13g, 16a).

Forwards Cam Darcy and Brian Hart were reassigned to the ECHL's Kalamazoo Wings.

Upcoming: Toronto, Rochester

The Crunch visit the Marlies 11 a.m. Wednesday. Syracuse is 3-1 vs. Toronto through four of eight meetings. Wednesday would be the first matchup of the Conacher brothers. Cory, 27, was reassigned to the Crunch Sunday. Shane, 22, was recalled by the Marlies from the ECHL's Orlando Solar Bears Tuesday. The Burlington, Ontario natives played at Canisius College in Buffalo.

Toronto is 11-2-1-0 in its last 14 games, including a 5-3 loss to Syracuse Feb. 4. The Marlies, third in the North Division at 27-22-3-1 (.547), are led by Byron Froese (24g, 15a), Brendan Leipsic (11g, 27a) and Kerby Rychel (11g, 23a). Garret Sparks (15-7-0, 2.20) is 1-1-0 vs. Syracuse. Antoine Bibeau (9-10-4, 2.85) is 0-1-1 with a 4.98 G.A.A. against the Crunch.

The Amerks host Utica Wednesday before playing a home-and-home vs. Syracuse Friday and Saturday. Rochester, last in the North at 21-29-0-2 (.423), had lost four straight when it beat Binghamton Sunday, 3-2. The Crunch have won six of eight meetings with Rochester (6-1-0-1), including the last matchup, 5-2, Feb. 11. 

Cole Schneider leads the team at 44 points (18g, 26a), eighth in the AHL. Six points have come vs. Syracuse. Cory Conacher and Matt Taormina each have 11 points vs. Rochester while Adam Erne has six goals in the series.

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